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Albany County Jail
Albany, NY
Oct 29, 2017
$1 million settlement in Albany County jail death case
ALBANY — A private medical company and Albany County have agreed to pay nearly $1.1 million to the estate of a Troy man who died when nurses waited more than 12 hours to call an ambulance after he suffered a stroke while being held at the county jail in August 2014. Last year, an investigation ordered by the state Commission of Correction determined the care given to 24-year-old Mark Cannon was "so grossly inadequate ... it shocks the conscience." Mark Cannon, died in August 2014 after suffering a stroke at Albany County jail. Nurses for a private medical company waited more than 12 hours to call an ambulance and were harshly criticized by state investigators for "egregious" errors in care. The settlement was filed recently in U.S. District Court in Albany, where Cannon's mother had filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Cannon's infant daughter. Cannon's symptoms steadily worsened after employees of a medical company that had a contract with the county brushed off his severe neurological symptoms as heat exhaustion, instructing guards to give him water and let him rest. Later that night, Cannon's condition had deteriorated to the point where he lay nearly motionless on the floor of an infirmary cell with foam oozing from his mouth. A nurse patted his arm and wiped away the saliva, wrongly believing Cannon was recovering from a seizure even though he had no history of medical problems. A nurse finally contacted a doctor for advice, and he instructed her to immediately call an ambulance. But it was too late: Cannon lingered for several days at Albany Medical Center Hospital  before he was removed from life support. Doctors determined Cannon had suffered a stroke — a loss of blood flow to his brain stem — that may have been caused by working out in the jail's recreation area on the day he fell ill. Emergency surgery might have saved his life, but too many hours had passed after the injury. The state's investigation cited multiple missteps by nurses, including their repeated failure to acknowledge the severity of Cannon's symptoms or consult a physician until it was too late. "Mark Cannon had a progressively deteriorating neurological situation that was completely disregarded by nursing staff despite dramatic signs and symptoms of an active neurological emergency and Cannon's repeated requests for medical care," the investigative report states. The sharp criticism of Correctional Medical Care, a Pennsylvania-based private company, came as the state was probing the company's conduct related to multiple inmate deaths across the state. The settlement filed in U.S. District Court calls for the company to pay $999,999, and Albany County to pay $95,000. Neither the company nor the county acknowledged any wrongdoing. Within weeks of Cannon's death, the office of New York's attorney general reached an agreement with the company that allowed it to remain in business in New York with monitoring through May 2018. The company paid a $200,000 penalty and agreed to improve staffing levels and training practices. At that time, Correctional Medical Care had contracts worth more than $32 million a year with 13 county jails in New York, including Albany and Schenectady counties' facilities Albany County earlier this year terminated the $3.7 million annual contract it had with CMC since 2012. In a deposition taken as part of a federal wrongful-death lawsuit, Sheriff Craig Apple testified the company's "performance" played a role in his decision, though he said the change was also based on a better offer from another company. State investigation reports and court records also reveal that CMC's nurses, two of whom were later disciplined by the State Education Department, violated multiple protocols. The failures began the moment a guard called the jail's medical office at 4:12 p.m. on Aug. 26, 2014, to report that Cannon was having problems and needed assistance. Instead of going to Cannon's tier to check him out as required, a nurse told the officer to give Cannon some water and ask him to lie down. In the hours that followed, Cannon was shuffled back and forth between his tier and the medical infirmary. At times, cameras showed him staggering into walls and vomiting. Just after 3 a.m., with new officers and nursing staff on duty, Cannon was found lying on the floor of his cell unable to talk. His eyes were open and he was foaming at the mouth; his legs were stiff and his arms limp. Officers scooped Cannon into a wheelchair and pushed him toward the infirmary. Videos of the transport show Cannon's head tilted to the left and his feet dragging beneath him. Despite his severe symptoms, no one called an ambulance. The state's investigation determined nurses "failed to conduct a basic nursing and neurological assessment on a patient with obvious signs and symptoms of a neurological crisis." Emre Umar of Blue Bell, Pa., is president of CMC, a for-profit company owned by his wife, Maria Carpio. Neither are licensed medical professionals. Umar has acknowledged that for more than 10 years, the company operated in New York in violation of state law requiring a medical care company to be owned by a physician. The firm has since restructured to adhere to the law, although Umar remains in charge of its operations. Elmer Robert Keach III, the attorney for Cannon's mother, characterized the settlement as "fair" and said the money would benefit Cannon's daughter.

Lackawanna County Jail, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania
December 15, 2009 Times-Tribune
County commissioners are expected to sign a new contract with the current Lackawanna County Prison medical care provider today that will ensure the cost of medical care at the prison, in the future at least, is not kept secret. But the new contract will be signed despite Correctional Care's refusal to hand over, or make public, detailed financial records to prove what the cost of medical care at the prison has been during the last five years. Meanwhile, the commissioners and county controller's office approved paying $114,083 to Correctional Care to cover hospital bills, $75,000 of which was paid without receipts to back up the payment. Not until last month were county officials given access to the records, and only then under a confidentiality agreement, which barred discussing or making copies of the records, or taking notes. Majority Commissioner Mike Washo said the county prison board, of which the commissioners are a part, made demands of Correctional Care, and those demands have been met. "We may not have been fully satisfied with (Correctional Care) not releasing records, but we have to look at the impact on the county budget. We have to look at the whole picture. I'm confident we made the right choice," Mr. Washo said. Though a confidentiality agreement is in place, the county still has a lawsuit, filed in September, to compel Correctional Care to make public its financial records related to medical service at the county prison. Part of the suit is to satisfy the state Office of Open Records, which ruled that financial records related to Correctional Care's pharmacy must be turned over to the president of the local chapter of a Catholic human rights advocacy group. The group, Pax Christi, represented by the ACLU of Pennsylvania and Cozen O'Connor law firm, has joined the suit on the county's side. While the county had refused to pay Correctional Care any additional expenses without first seeing receipts for payments - the exception is a $143,660 monthly bill required by the previous contract - the commissioners last month approved two payments to the vendor for hospital bills. One payment, worth $39,083, was made so Correctional Care could settle a lawsuit filed by Community Medical Center against the prison vendor and the county for $135,000. The three parties settled the matter out of court, said county solicitor Larry Moran, and the lawsuit was discontinued. CMC spokeswoman Jane Gaul declined to comment on the settlement. Efforts to reach Dr. Edward Zaloga, the prison medical director and co-owner of Correctional Care, were unsuccessful. A second payment of $75,000 was made to Correctional Care to pay bills at Moses Taylor Hospital. Mr. Washo said there was concern about whether inmates would be accepted in the future because bills hadn't been paid. Moses Taylor spokeswoman Meaghan Comerford confirmed Correctional Care made a payment to the hospital, but declined to comment otherwise. But that second payment to Correctional Care was not supported by receipts for the expenses, said county Chief Financial Officer Tom Durkin. Mr. Washo said the decision to pay $75,000 - without receipts - was made because Mr. Durkin had reviewed the records for Correctional Care, under the confidentiality agreement, and determined the county owed at least in excess of that. "We knew we owed them money. This was an amount we were comfortable providing them because we saw documentation in excess of that amount," he said. The county will not make further payments until Correctional Care has given the county adequate information, Mr. Washo said. Mr. Durkin said he doesn't know yet how much the county owes Correctional Care under the previous contract - no other bills have been submitted by the vendor in addition to the hospital bills. In a countersuit to the county's September lawsuit, Correctional Care had indicated $471,931 was still owed by the county. Efforts were unsuccessful to ask Controller Ken McDowell on Monday why his office approved the payment without backup documentation. Speaking in general terms on the Correctional Care issue last week, Mr. McDowell said he would not authorize payment "unless I am satisfied it is reasonable and that we were provided with satisfactory evidence of such."

December 2, 2009 The Times-Tribune
A national law firm has agreed to represent the local chapter of a Catholic human rights advocacy group in its fight to obtain financial records from the medical care provider for Lackawanna County Prison. Philadelphia-based Cozen O'Connor and the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania filed a motion Monday on behalf of Pax Christi to intervene and join with Lackawanna County in its lawsuit against its prison health care vendor, Correctional Care Inc. The county lawsuit asks that Correctional Care be compelled to release detailed financial records related to pharmaceutical services, so the county can comply with a state Office of Open Records ruling that found the records must handed over to Pax Christi. The lawsuit also requests Correctional Care be compelled to release all financial receipts and invoices to back up county payments it has received for services. Since the suit was filed in September, the county and Correctional Care signed a confidentiality agreement allowing only county Chief Financial Officer Tom Durkin and county Deputy Controller Reggie Mariani to view the records. Although a confidentiality agreement is in place, solicitor John O'Brien said the county is still pursuing release of all financial records. The motion to intervene taken Monday adds the weight of Cozen O'Connor and the ACLU to the county's suit. "The more interests, motivations and legal rights put forward to obtain these documents, the better chance we have of getting them," said ACLU staff attorney Valerie Burch. Cozen O'Connor, which recently opened a branch office in Wilkes-Barre, is one of the largest law firms in the U.S. "Our plan is to cooperate with the county to get those documents," Cozen O'Connor attorney Micah Knapp said. Attempts to reach Edward Zaloga, M.D., owner of Correctional Care, were unsuccessful. Despite the lawsuit, the county and Correctional Care are in negotiations on a new contract. The current contract was extended by a month, until Dec. 15, to work out details on a new contract. Cozen O'Connor and the ACLU are also seeking a special injunction to ensure records from Correctional Care's current contract are not destroyed.

November 11, 2009 The Times-Tribune
The Lackawanna County Prison Board unanimously approved a new contract for its prison health care vendor based on a proposal that did not include details other bidders were required to submit. Meanwhile, one of the rejected bidders said his proposal could have been more cost-effective than the one submitted by Correctional Care Inc., but county officials did not give him an opportunity to clarify or negotiate costs in the proposal. Correctional Care provided no cost estimates for the next three years for hospitalization, pharmaceuticals or any indication of what staffing levels will be under the new contract, as required by the county's October request for proposals. Instead, the company made reference to a large packet of financial records given to prison board members Oct. 26. Correctional Care didn't have to provide new information on staffing levels or costs because the firm has already proven itself, said minority Commissioner A.J. Munchak, a prison board member and longtime friend of Dr. Edward Zaloga, prison medical director and co-owner of Correctional Care. Asked if he knew how much it will cost the county to send inmates to hospitals for treatment under Correctional Care's proposal, Mr. Munchak said, "I'm not going to do your research for you." Efforts to reach Dr. Zaloga were unsuccessful. Tom Durkin, the county's chief financial officer, estimated the county's cost to send inmates to a hospital under the current contract with Correctional Care has been less than $103,000 per year, based on records the vendor provided to the prison board. However, he acknowledged he could not say for sure how much it cost because the records were not specific. Because Correctional Care provides no breakdown of estimated costs for services in its proposal, there is no way to determine how much the company is budgeting for hospitalization in its $6.7 million bid, Mr. Durkin acknowledged. How much Correctional Care budgets for hospitalization matters because the county must pay the difference if costs exceed the vendor's estimate. Prison board members raised this concern in rejecting the proposal of Health Professionals Limited. The Denver, Colo.-based vendor submitted a bid with a price significantly lower than Correctional Care. Correctional Care's new contract will cost $187,237 a month, compared to $143,660 a month under the previous deal. Health Professionals Limited submitted a proposal that would have cost $147,050 a month. Health Professionals Limited left out the cost of hospitalization and underestimated staffing needs and the cost of pharmaceuticals, Mr. Durkin and prison board members said. For instance, Health Professionals included funding for a physician/medical director who would work only 12 hours per week. Dr. Zaloga is at the prison 40 hours a week, Mr. Munchak said. "They grossly misrepresented themselves," said District Attorney and prison board member Andy Jarbola. "They basically tried to misinform us." Dr. Larry Wolk, chief operations and medical officer of Health Professionals Limited and a native of Lackawanna County, denied any misrepresentation and said the company would have answered the prison board's questions if asked. "We do this for 190 jails in 20 states," Dr. Wolk said. "To say that we don't know what the cost is, is pretty inaccurate." The Health Professionals proposal estimated costs for pharmaceuticals at $140,000 a year. Pharmaceuticals have cost an average $253,000 a year since Correctional Care took over at the prison in November 2004, Mr. Durkin said. Dr. Wolk said his company can obtain lower prices for medications because of its size. "By our estimates, Lackawanna County is spending a lot, lot more than they should be (for pharmaceuticals)," he said. Majority Commissioner Corey O'Brien said the prison board had a sense of staffing levels needed at the prison and what the cost of hospitalization was. With that information, it decided Correctional Care offered the better deal. He said Health Professionals Limited was not called because "we did not have questions on their proposal." "(Correctional Care was) the lowest, most responsible bidder," he said. The prison board on Friday approved a $6.7 million contract with Correctional Care after the county agreed to a confidentiality agreement that allowed county officials to view company records, but forbid them from discussing the records, making copies or taking notes. The county had to file a lawsuit to gain access to detailed financial records in September after Correctional Care refused to turn them over. Dr. Wolk said he was surprised by an arrangement in which a prison medical care provider would retain ownership and control of receipts, invoices and other financial records related to billing. "We may be the vendor that's providing the health care, but we consider that information to be property of the county," Dr. Wolk said.

November 10, 2009 The Times-Tribune
A confidentiality agreement between Lackawanna County and its prison health care vendor is "legally inappropriate" and does not supersede the state's Right to Know Law, said attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union and Pennsylvania Newspaper Association. Lackawanna County entered into a confidentiality agreement with Correctional Care Inc. last week, clearing the way for county officials to inspect financial records of the vendor. The county filed a lawsuit to gain access to the records in September, after Correctional Care refused to turn them over. The county's suit was filed in part so it could comply with a state Office of Open Records ruling that the records be released to Pax Christi, a Catholic human rights advocacy group. In October, the ACLU filed suit on behalf of Pax Christi. The county's suit remains active, despite the confidentiality agreement, under which county officials are forbidden to discuss, make copies or take notes related to the Correctional Care records. The county's position remains that Correctional Care must release the records to the public, majority Commissioner Corey O'Brien said Monday. He said the county agreed to the confidentiality agreement because it was the only way to obtain quick access to the records before deciding on a new prison health care contract. Correctional Care's original contract was set to expire Sunday. The Lackawanna County Prison Board unanimously approved a new three-year, $6.7 million contract with Correctional Care on Friday. The contract still must be approved by county commissioners. "We believe it's public information," Mr. O'Brien said of the financial records. "(Correctional Care) disagrees. We've not waived any claims with respect to what is public information." The courts have repeatedly ruled that confidentiality agreements between a public agency and a second party are inappropriate and unenforceable, said Melissa Melewsky, media law counsel for the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association. She questioned the county awarding a new contract to a vendor that refuses to release documents that by law are public records. "It's legally inappropriate. ... And I question why an agency would renew a contract with someone who doesn't comply with the law," she said. "Any vendor that doesn't want to recognize legal authority shouldn't be a government contractor anymore." County Solicitor John O'Brien agreed that a confidentiality agreement is not enforceable if the records are public - but said it will take a court decision to determine whether they must be released. In a defining case, Lackawanna County Judge Terrence R. Nealon ruled in September that records of an agency vendor are public if the vendor is performing a government function. He ruled that SWB Yankees, the management group that operates Lackawanna County's minor-league baseball team and stadium, cannot keep its contracts with concessionaires secret from taxpayers. The ACLU is reviewing the action taken by the county and will continue to seek the records on behalf of Pax Christi, said Valerie Burch, an ACLU staff attorney. "The right to view these financial records belongs to the people," she said. "The county does not have the power to contract that right away." Pax Christi's determination to obtain the records has not diminished, said Joseph Rogan, Ed.D., president of the local chapter. He said he was surprised the county's one-day review of Correctional Care's books was adequate to award a new $6.7 million contract. "If this is the way the county conducts its financial affairs, it's no wonder that it is in such dire straits," Dr. Rogan said.

October 3, 2009 The Times-Tribune
A proposal by Correctional Care Inc. to provide medical care to Lackawanna County Prison will cost $1.2 million more per year than the service the company currently provides, a review of four medical care provider proposals shows. But even if county officials went with the lowest bidder, Correctional Telecare Solutions, the cost of medical care would be $1.1 million more per year. The county made public Thursday the four proposals submitted for medical care provider at the county prison. Last week, the Lackawanna County Prison Board voted 5-2 to exclusively negotiate a contract with Correctional Care and discard the three other proposals. The vote came two days after a lawsuit was filed raising concerns about the accountability of Correctional Care, which has refused to release financial records to reconcile bills submitted to the county. The county filed suit Sept. 28 to compel Correctional Care to release the financial records and information about its pharmacy vendor, which the company has refused even to name. County taxpayers pay $1.7 million annually to provide medical care to the prison under the current contract with Correctional Care. But without financial invoices to back up the cost from Correctional Care, it is unclear what the actual cost is. Dr. Patrick Conaboy, who submitted a proposal through a Scranton startup company Epidarus Medical Management, said he couldn't be sure how accurate his bid was because the prison was unable to provide direct financial information on its medical care. "If they were able to supply better information, I think it would have changed the pricing totally," Dr. Conaboy said. Dr. Conaboy, who realized he was a "dark horse" pick because he was a startup company, said he also offered a one-year contract in his proposal that could be renegotiated once he understood what the costs were to provide medical care. In its proposal, Correctional Care priced the cost per year to provide medical care at between $2,630,287 for 900 inmates and $2,919,619 for 1,000 inmates. Correctional Telecare, the low bidder, would cost on average per year between $2,591,148 for 900 inmates and $2,879,053 for 1,000 inmates. The county prison population fluctuates between 900 and 1,000 inmates. No matter the outcome of the prison board meeting, majority Commissioners Corey O'Brien and Mike Washo said there isn't an extra $1 million in the county budget available to pay for medical care at the prison. "I've said that relentlessly now, we can't afford these proposals," Mr. Washo said. He recommended scrapping all the proposals and starting over. "I don't know where the money would come from, I have no idea, but we're not raising the taxes." Epidarus Medical Management submitted a proposal to offer services on an average of $3.1 million a year, with no mention of an amount per inmate. Harrisburg-based Primecare Medical, which manages medical care for 31 prisons, submitted a proposal that would have cost on average $3.8 million a year for 850 inmates. In a letter to the editor published in The Times-Tribune on Friday, minority Commissioner A.J. Munchak questioned the county's timing in filing a lawsuit against Correctional Care two days before proposals were discussed by the prison board. Mr. Munchak pointed out county solicitor Larry Moran is the brother-in-law of Epidarus owner, Dr. Conaboy. As chief solicitor of litigation for the county, Mr. Moran handled filing the lawsuit against Correctional Care. Asked Friday if he was suggesting impropriety by Mr. Moran or the majority commissioners, Mr. Munchak would say only "the timing is suspect." Mr. O'Brien and Mr. Washo called any implication of impropriety "ludicrous." "A.J. must be confusing us with his administration. I'm not going to dignify that kind of comment with a response," Mr. O'Brien said. Mr. Washo said the timing of the lawsuit was coincidental and the issues raised in the lawsuit against Correctional Care had been developing for months. Mr. Moran called Mr. Munchak's comments "despicable" and said they were made to divert attention from Correctional Care and its co-owner, Edward Zaloga, M.D., a longtime friend of Mr. Munchak. "I think his smokescreen bomb is a dud," Mr. Moran said. "It's a transparent effort to divert scrutiny from his lifelong friend, a friend who despite a ruling of the (state) open records office and a lawsuit has refused to account for the expenditures of millions of dollars over five years." Dr. Conaboy, who also denied any impropriety. "More than half the city is related to me in someway," he said. "I will tell you I never had a single discussion with anybody in the commissioner's office."

September 25, 2009 Scranton Times
A Lackawanna County Prison inmate made half a dozen requests seeking medical help for a severe skin condition, but was ignored until the American Civil Liberties Union intervened, an ACLU attorney said Thursday. The inmate's condition became so severe it shocked Valerie A. Burch, an attorney with the ACLU of Pennsylvania. "He looked like a burn victim," she said. "He had severe psoriasis all over his body. His skin was cracked and bleeding. It was immediately apparent this man was not getting the treatment he needed." Prison advocacy group Pax Christi and the ACLU of Pennsylvania brought the case of inmate Cal Burns, 32, to light after a decision by the Lackawanna County Prison Board to negotiate a new contract with the current prison medical care provider, Correctional Care Inc. The decision was made on a 5-2 vote, with majority county Commissioners Corey O'Brien and Mike Washo voting against negotiating with Correctional Care and discarding proposals from three other medical care providers. Board members who voted for retaining the company said they are satisfied with the medical care provided at the prison. Told of the board's action, Ms. Burch said she was surprised. The ACLU receives more inmate complaints about medical care at Lackawanna County Prison than from any other prison in the state, she said. Complaints are so common, she said, they are immediately assigned an attorney, bypassing a standard screening process. "This is one (prison) we've been watching because we do think the medical care at Lackawanna County Prison is bad," Ms. Burch said. The ACLU and Pax Christi are each actively investigating complaints at Lackawanna County Prison, according to officials at both organizations. However, they said it is difficult to measure exactly how many complaints they receive. Mr. Burns remains in the prison and could not be interviewed Thursday. He gave Ms. Burch permission to speak with The Times-Tribune on his behalf. Ms. Burch said she visited the prison in March to interview Mr. Burns. The inmate's pain was so intense, he could not sleep, Ms. Burch said. Mr. Burns submitted six requests for medical treatment over a period of several weeks, she said, but prison officials failed to respond. "Before jail, he was getting injections that kept him completely healthy and normal," she said. "In prison, he wasn't getting the same treatment. They reduced it to a cream, which was obviously inadequate." Ms. Burch said she sent a letter to Warden Janine Donate, threatening a cruel and unusual punishment suit if Mr. Burns did not receive different treatment. Soon after, proper treatment was given, and Mr. Burns has since recovered, Ms. Burch said. Citing medical privacy laws, Ms. Donate refused to discuss Mr. Burns' case, or the claim his requests for treatment went unanswered. She insisted Correctional Care provides satisfactory medical care to inmates. The state Bureau of Corrections gave Lackawanna County Prison a 100 percent rating in 2009 for an inspection that included questions about medical care, she noted. "We've been inspected on state and federal levels several times since 2004 ... and we've never had any notable issues," she said. "So on an objective level, yes, they're doing what they're supposed to be doing within the standard of a medical provider of the prison." Minority county Commissioner A.J. Munchak, Judge Vito P. Geroulo, District Attorney Andy Jarbola, Controller Ken McDowell and Sheriff John Szymanski - the prison board members who voted for negotiating a new contract with Correctional Care - said they were unfamiliar with Mr. Burns' case and stood by their votes Thursday. "There are a couple of people who are dissatisfied with the care and that's the basis of (complaints)," Mr. Munchak said. "The bottom line is medical complaints have decreased substantially." Mr. Jarbola said claims made by Pax Christi can't be trusted. "I don't give Pax Christi any credibility whatsoever," he said, declining to elaborate. He said he is unaware of any ACLU concerns with the prison, but would be open to hearing about them. Judge Geroulo, who regularly speaks with inmates, said it is "extremely rare" he receives complaints about medical care at the prison. "I get hundreds of letters per year directly from prisoners, I question any prisoner before me that looks like they need medical attention and I immediately speak with the warden if there is a problem," the judge said. Judge Geroulo said he is aware of inmate complaints about the types of medications they receive. He said Correctional Care told him while some medications may have different brand names, inmates are receiving the same types and quality of medicine. The judge said he was unfamiliar with Mr. Burns' experience, and could not comment. Pax Christi has never been concerned with who is providing medical care at the prison, said Joseph Rogan, Ed.D., president of the local chapter. "We've never asked to have anybody replaced," he said. "What we've asked for is good health care and we believe the county has a duty to take care of their inmates."

May 7, 2008 The Times-Tribune
The medical care provider at Lackawanna County Prison filed a lawsuit against the president of a local social justice advocacy group, alleging defamation, slander and interference with contract because of a report that blasted prison health care. Correctional Care Inc., of Moosic, filed a three-count complaint against Joseph Rogan, Ed.D., seeking damages in excess of $50,000. Mr. Rogan, who heads Pax Christi of Northeastern Pennsylvania, said he had not seen the lawsuit as of Tuesday afternoon. Pax Christi, an international nonprofit Catholic organization that advocates peace, justice and human rights, issued a report calling for major reform of the prison’s medical care. Specifically, the lawsuit alleges tortious interference with existing contractual relations, intentional interference with prospective contractual relations, and defamation, libel and slander. The report suggested prenatal care was inadequate and requests for medical care were answered slowly, among other things. The report, based on face-to-face surveys of 16 current or former inmates, also suggested distribution of medication was deficient. “Mr. Rogan acted irresponsibly and without sufficient due diligence in issuing his report, and as a result, has harmed our client,” said attorney James Scanlon, representing CCI. Pax Christi submitted the report to the Prison Board on Jan. 29. Warden Janine Donate subsequently issued a response dismissing the allegations at a Prison Board meeting March 12. Minority Commissioner A.J. Munchak, who formerly served as Prison Board chairman, had not seen the lawsuit but said he was surprised one hadn’t been filed sooner.

March 13, 2008 The Times-Tribune
Several members of the Lackawanna County Prison Board on Wednesday railed against a review of prison health care released last month by the regional branch of an international social justice group. Pax Christi, a Catholic nonprofit group that advocates peace, justice and human rights, undertook the project after the birth of a baby in a prison cell in July. Among a multitude of Pax Christi’s allegations rebutted by Warden Janine Donate were deficient distribution of medication, ignored inmate requests for care and almost nonexistent prenatal care. Ms. Donate assured the Prison Board that pregnant inmates are given appropriate prenatal care and prenatal vitamins. “As for the allegation that inmates are ignored and services have significant delays, it’s simply not accurate,” she said. The survey’s eight recommendations were based on 16 face-to-face interviews with current and former inmates. Fourteen were current inmates interviewed by members of the prison ministry program. However, Pax Christi was denied access to prison inmates when Joseph Rogan, Ed.D., head of the regional Pax Christi chapter, made the request in December. Ms. Donate said she denied the request because she’d never met Dr. Rogan and did not know who the other members of the review team were or what qualifications they had to conduct a health care survey. District Attorney Andy Jarbola, a member of the Prison Board, questioned the qualifications of the review team and the way in which the study was conducted. “I have a huge problem with this report,” he said. “We have no idea whether these individuals have done such a survey in any other prison or institution anywhere in Pennsylvania or the United States.” Compared with the 5,000 inmates incarcerated since Correctional Care Inc., of Moosic, took over the prison’s medical care, the number of complaints was minuscule, Mr. Jarbola said. “If you’re only talking about 16 complaints over 5,000, that’s less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the individuals that were incarcerated,” Mr. Jarbola said. Other members of the health care review team included the Rev. William Pickard, Joan Holmes, Sister Barbara Craig, of the Sisters of Mercy, and Ann Marie Crowley. Members of Pax Christi were not specifically invited to Wednesday’s Prison Board meeting. The group has not been contacted by county officials and only knew the warden was reviewing its findings from a Feb. 20 article in The Times-Tribune. Contacted later by phone, Dr. Rogan said he hopes the commissioners send a response. “Nothing changes in terms of our views,” Dr. Rogan said, adding that he expects the group will make a decision about how to proceed at its next meeting March 26. “I would guess (the group) would be interested in pursuing it further. It’s not expected that we drop the ball now.” Minority Commissioner A.J. Munchak, former Prison Board chairman, said the report should not have been given credence by the board. “All it is, is a shot at our prison and a shot at the doctor who’s running this,” he said of Dr. Edward Zaloga, the prison’s medical director and his longtime friend. “I think it’s absolutely terrible, and if it were up to me, this wouldn’t have even been addressed here today in public.”

February 20, 2008 The Times-Tribune
County officials are mum on a report released by the regional chapter of an international justice advocacy group that calls for a number of reforms to medical care at Lackawanna County Prison. In a report released to The Times-Tribune, Pax Christi of Northeastern Pennsylvania alleges existing conditions such as heart problems and broken ribs were not addressed when inmates arrived, distribution of medication was deficient and sporadic, requests for medical care were answered slowly, and prenatal care for pregnant inmates was almost nonexistent. The report, based on face-to-face surveys of 16 current or former inmates, also suggests medical care has been rationed to boost profits for the medical care provider. “We feel there are very, very serious criticisms that need to be followed up on,” said Father William Pickard, who serves as chaplain for the county’s prison ministry program on behalf of the Diocese of Scranton. Father Pickard also is a member of the regional chapter of Pax Christi, an international Catholic nonprofit group that advocates peace, justice and human rights. Provider under fire -- Medical care at the prison is provided under contract by Correctional Care Inc., of Moosic, a company co-owned by the prison’s medical director, Dr. Edward Zaloga. The report says the relationship is a potential conflict of interest and suggests that money not spent on medical care results in higher profits for CCI. “It’s an inference, but it would seem to be to his (Dr. Zaloga’s) advantage, for example, not to fill medications,” said Joan Holmes, a member of Pax Christi and volunteer with the prison ministry program. Attempts to reach Dr. Zaloga were unsuccessful. It is not clear exactly how Dr. Zaloga would directly benefit from limiting or denying care. Under its five-year contract that expires Nov. 14, 2009, Correctional Care Inc. is paid a flat fee of $250,000 a year regardless of medical expenses and is reimbursed separately for all costs of medical care inside and outside the prison. The report does say that inmates have “major consternation” with Dr. Zaloga and says the fact “that the person best positioned to provide inmates with care was the one they most disrespected was telling.” In the report — dated Jan. 29 — Pax Christi recommended that the Prison Board hire an independent party to evaluate the prison’s medical services. The purpose of the study is not conflict, but change, said Mrs. Holmes. The idea for a review was triggered by the birth of a baby in a prison cell on July 10, Father Pickard said. Then-inmate Shakira Staten, 22, of Chambersburg, accused Lackawanna County Prison officials of ignoring her repeated pleas to go to the hospital before her daughter dropped from her womb and to the floor of a cell monitored by a closed-circuit television camera. Although the Prison Board initially denied the staff did anything wrong in that incident, county officials later publicly apologized to Ms. Staten for what happened. According to the report, Ms. Donate denied Pax Christi access to current inmates. Father Pickard and Mrs. Holmes conducted interviews during regular visits with prisoners as part of the prison ministry program. Joseph Rogan, Ed.D., heads the regional chapter of Pax Christi. Other members of the prison health care review team included Sister Barbara Craig of the Sisters of Mercy and Ann Marie Crowley. Inmates give examples -- The report details many complaints registered by the interviewed inmates. Among them were the claims of two women who were pregnant while incarcerated. The report says the pregnant inmates received no checkups after entering the prison, and “received inconsistent prenatal vitamins and received no prenatal care.” Another inmate reportedly claimed that “medicines are routinely replaced or unavailable to save the (medical care) firm money.” Several complaints were reported about a lack of response to inmate requests to see a doctor or to file grievances about medical care denials. “A few did get the care they requested ... ,” the report says. “Most, however, reported that their requests were ignored, or, if addressed at all, only very slowly. When they did get attention, in many cases no treatments were prescribed. One (inmate) was told that he was just getting old.” The report said two interviewed inmates independently confirmed that when one inmate they knew filed a grievance about medical care, the “entire unit was locked down while a guard read the details of the inmate’s complete medical history over the intercom for all to hear.” None of the interview subjects is identified in the report, and it contains a disclaimer that says some responses “may have been colored by personal motives.” However, the document also says that there were underlying themes amid the responses that triggered the recommendations. “We thought there was enough of a common thread there to release the report,” Father Pickard said. “I could tell by (the inmates’) emotions that they were sincere, that they went through a terrible ordeal. They weren’t play-acting. It was very obvious in the interaction I had with them.” Prisoners faced possible retribution by answering the survey questions, Father Pickard said. The committee recorded a majority of the inmates’ names, and Father Pickard said the committee verified what inmates told them “as best they could.” However, Mrs. Holmes admitted they did not have a way to verify all claims. Pax Christi received 38 responses when input was solicited, but was only able to interview 16 people because of time and logistical constraints. Of the 16 people who responded, 14 were current inmates. The report recommends that the Prison Board: Review the prison’s inmate intake procedures. Review the prison’s medical response procedures. Review the possibility that inmates with mental health issues could be better placed. Review whether inmates who have substance-abuse problems could be served through treatment and education. Review the prison’s policies and procedures related to pregnant inmates. Review the prison’s food-service system to determine whether inmates receive proper nutrition. Officials not talking -- County communications director Lynne Shedlock said the study was referred to Prison Warden Janine Donate, who was not immediately available for comment. “There is no further comment until the warden has had a chance to review it,” Ms. Shedlock said. “She’ll present a report back to the Prison Board at the appropriate time.” Majority Commissioner Mike Washo, who chairs the board, was out of town and not available for comment. Minority Commissioner A.J. Munchak, who served as Prison Board chair when he was majority commissioner through last year, deferred questions to Mr. Washo. “Any official response has to come from the chairman,” Mr. Munchak said. Commissioner Corey O’Brien, also a member of the Prison Board, declined comment as well. In addition to the three county commissioners, the Prison Board includes District Attorney Andy Jarbola, Sheriff John Szymanski , Judge Vito Geroulo and County Controller Ken McDowell. Mr. McDowell said he read the study and anticipates the warden will review it and make a report to the Prison Board. Efforts to reach Mr. Jarbola, Mr. Szymanski and Judge Geroulo were unsuccessful.

August 18, 2007 Times-Tribune
The Lackawanna County Prison’s medical director was fired from a similar post at a Pittsburgh-based health care services company in 1999 in an apparent dispute over a new treatment for hepatitis C in state prisons the company served. Company officials could not be reached to explain his termination, but in a lawsuit later filed against the company, Dr. Edward J. Zaloga claimed he was fired because he disagreed with a plan to begin treating the liver disease with a then-new, unproven drug that ultimately would be a waste of taxpayer money. The treatment “would waste more than $7 million of the (state) taxpayers’ money on unnecessary and unwarranted medical treatment,” he charged in a suit filed against Wexford Health Sources Inc. in November 1999. He claimed in his suit that his management practices had created a profit for the company of $4.1 million, and the company — which at the time was trying to get the state to pay for the new treatment — feared it might have to pay for treating inmates if the state found out about its profits. He was fired for raising the concerns, he alleged. The suit demanded more than $1 million in unpaid wages, expenses, lawyer’s fees and punitive damages. The company, in its legal responses, denied earning anywhere near $4 million. It denied his other claims as well. County judges rejected Dr. Zaloga’s suit in separate rulings in 2002 and 2004 with one judge writing that Dr. Zaloga failed to establish “a report of wrongdoing ... or waste.” Wexford in its legal filings acknowledged firing Dr. Zaloga but did not say why. Dr. Zaloga is now co-owner of a company, Correctional Care Inc., of Moosic, that provides medical services to county prison inmates, and oversees those services. A former inmate, Shakira Staten, 22, a federal prisoner who gave birth at the prison July 10 and has since been transferred to Adams County Prison to await sentencing, has sued him, the company and the prison in federal court. She claims she was a victim of cruel and unusual punishment because her pleas to be taken to the hospital when she went into labor were ignored and she had the baby alone in a cell. The county Prison Board this week apologized for the way she treated and blamed a Correctional Care nurse for “serious errors of judgment” that included failing to properly monitor her labor and unnecessarily delaying taking her to the hospital. The board barred the nurse from working in the prison. A secretary in the company’s office said Dr. Zaloga was not available for comment and would only reply to written questions. A secretary at Wexford Health Sources said no company officials would be available to comment until next week. Dr. Zaloga was Wexford’s regional medical director for its central Pennsylvania operations from Feb. 1 to Sept. 29, 1999, the day the company’s operations director dismissed him, according to court records.

November 24, 2004 Scranton Times Tribune
PrimeCare Medical Inc., the Harrisburg company that lost out last month on a lucrative contract for medical care at the Lackawanna County Prison, hit the county with a $926,000 lawsuit Tuesday.  PrimeCare President Carl A. Hoffman claims county officials, namely Commissioner Robert C. Cordaro, breached an oral agreement with him when they hired another company to take over prison medical services. Earlier this year, PrimeCare said it would forgive about $400,000 in outstanding bills in exchange for a new five-year contract, according to the lawsuit.
The county paid PrimeCare $900,000 instead of the $1.3 million owed and later awarded the health care contract to a local upstart company, Correctional Care Inc.

October 15, 2004 Scranton Times Tribune
Divided on the issue days ago, Lackawanna County Commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to award a multimillion-dollar prison health-care contract to a new, local provider instead of the veteran incumbent company. Correctional Care Inc., of Moosic, was founded four months ago by Dr. Edward Zaloga and investors Joseph Compagnino, William Drazdowski and Ronald Halko for the sole purpose of taking over medical operations at the county jail. The upstart company beat out PrimeCare Medical Services of Harrisburg for the five-year service contract.
  Having no experience to draw on, the company was unable to estimate its annual cost, Commissioner A.J. Munchak said. PrimeCare has been the prison's health-care provider since 2001. It has been working without a contract since January and proposed a $5.4 million five-year contract. The question of the contract had been hotly contested since May, when PrimeCare officials answered the Prison Board about concerns raised in a county grand jury report. In it, jurors cited "failure to adequately treat inmates for serious medical conditions" and "failure of medical staff to report, document or question suspicious injuries."